As I sat my patient into the dentist’s chair and secured the napkin across his chest, I asked him what was the reason for his visit today. He looked terrified. Some people are afraid of the dentist, but I sensed there was something else underneath. He said that he was in to fix his broken front teeth. They were broken clean in half. He must be in a lot of discomfort, I thought. I asked him how he broke his teeth as I prepared the tray for his numbing. He said that he fell and hit the bathtub. I wasn’t sure he was telling the truth. I went out front to talk to the receptionist about a billing issue.
There was this man pacing the floor in the waiting room. He looked agitated. I asked her who the man was. She said that this was my patient’s boyfriend who brought him in. I walked back to the patient who was waiting for the work to be done and over with. I asked him gently if his boyfriend had anything to do with his broken teeth. He looked even more terrified than before, shaking his head “no” vigorously. His eyes were telling me “yes”. As the chair was lowered back into position, I was doing my best to calm him down. I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head. To make matters worse, the receptionist kept coming back asking how much longer it was going to be. Mr. Impatient out front was losing it. I should have called the police and reported the abuse. But as long as my patient would not be straight with me and admit the truth, there wasn’t much I could do. We finished up the procedure after a couple of hours. When I sat him up, I said that if he needed anything at all to call me. He said that he appreciated my kindness to him, and moved to the front office to check out.
I witness these kinds of things on a regular basis:
Men being abused by their partners, by their wives, by their parents, by their children. Men are typically seen as the abusers, but that doesn’t mean abuse doesn’t happen to men either. It is widely under reported. Men are taught to be the stronger sex, to be tough, to be manly. To be portrayed as anything else constitutes weakness.
Where does it begin?
The majority of abuse starts during childhood. The abuser is someone they trust or someone they are close to. As with most abuse, the child is groomed to believe the abuse is normal, the child deserves it, and that he is worthless. Keep in mind, there are many ways to introduce this evil into the child’s life: exposure to pornography, touching the genitals, making the child touch the abuser’s genitalia, and actual intercourse.
We’ve all heard the horrible stories of how priests abused their altar boys, and how the boys’ lives are damaged even years afterwards. A betrayal of a child’s trust in a spiritual leader is devastating to his relationship with his father and God.
Unfortunately, boys are violated by family members, teachers, coaches, classmates, spiritual leaders, camp counselors.
The child feels so guilty and so ashamed, even though it wasn’t his fault in the least. The fact that the body is designed to respond a certain kind of stimuli doesn’t change the fact that the child is a victim here, and not a willing participant. The boy is afraid to tell anyone, after being humiliated, threatened, and blackmailed. He thinks no one would believe him anyway.
I used to believe that every mother has a built-in instinct to protect her child at any cost, even her own life. I was dead wrong.
Here is a story of a man I knew that was abused as a child and it continued into adulthood.
His mother sexually assaulted him and then. He never went to school, and he could not read or write. Fast forward into adulthood, he got married to a woman who was also sexually abusing him. They had kids, some of which he didn’t think were his. He had trouble functioning without an education and being illiterate. She knew he would not leave her because he wouldn’t leave the kids. She would put a knife to his throat or hit him over the head with a phone to force him to have sex with her. This worked for a while until his children were being abused too. He did manage to get a job. One of his coworkers volunteered to teach him to read. He was eventually able to leave his abuser, but it was a long and intense custody battle for the kids. Who would believe his story?
With my Mending The Soul groups, There is a long waiting list for men to get into a group. There are only a few men trained to facilitate a group and a whole lot of men who desperately need healing from past trauma and abuse. So I know for a fact that there are men out there being abused, more than is being reported.
Why don’t men speak up?
Think of it from a man’s perspective. A woman tries to seduce you, but you don’t want to have sex with her. But she keeps going, trying to get you to cave in. Your body naturally responds even though your brains don’t want to. And it happens. A man won’t tell anyone that he was violated because our culture thinks that men always want to have sex with anyone who interested and it is impossible to say no. Men are taught never to hit a woman. So even defending himself from a potential violation may seem like he is the abuser in the police’s eyes.
A child who is fondled or violated is terrified to report it because the abuser threatens to harm him, his family or pets.
How can we prevent such a thing from happening? How can a man heal from such an atrocity?
- When raising your own sons, encourage openness, vulnerability, honesty and forgiveness.
- Crying should be accepted as normal expression of emotions and feelings.
- Talk to your children regularly about setting personal boundaries. No one should allow anyone to touch their genitals or in any way that makes them uncomfortable.
- Establish internet rules on what is appropriate for them to look at. If anyone shows them pictures of naked people or sexual acts, they are to tell you immediately.
- Make sure you monitor internet activity on the computers and devices the children use. Learn how to put safeguards on electronics to protect them from things they shouldn’t see.
- Teach your children never to give someone online their full name, address, or other personally identifiable information. Child predators are waiting for your children.
- Monitor events like sleepovers and after school events. If any particular person spends a lot of time with your child or gives him special attention, be very aware of that. Trust your gut.
- Always encourage your child to come to you right away if something happens, and no matter what took place, it is not his fault, and he will never be punished.
Most importantly, when your child does come to you with some shocking news, believe your child! Protect him, and remind him of your love. That goes a long way in helping your child heal.
Abusers are always responsible for their own actions, and behavior! Even if you incorporate all these safeguards, there is still a possibility that your child may be abused. It is a sobering reality in this fallen world.
Always call the police and report abuse, regardless of who the abuser is. Let them do the investigating. Your role is to love and support your child.
Be sure to get your child into counseling designed especially for victims of sexual abuse. If your child is older, such as a teenager or even a young adult, he may benefit from also joining a Mending the Soul group or the counselor using the Vulnerable Child Curriculum. You can find more information about both these resources at MendingTheSoul.org .